What We See We Eat

by SwissFitt Admin · 0 comments

Normally I talk about clinical studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. But, occasionally I come across an article in the popular literature that I just can’t resist sharing with you. The article “Under the Influence” in the May 2011 issue of Nutrition Action is a perfect example.

It is an interview with Dr. Brian Wansink, who has devoted his career to studying how external clues influence our eating patterns.

Here are some examples of his studies:

  • He gave moviegoers who had just eaten dinner either a big bag or a small bag of stale popcorn. Those given the big bag ate 34% more.
  • He put clear glass dishes of candy either on a secretary’s desk or 6 feet away on a cabinet. The secretaries consumed 125 more calories from candy when it was on their desk.
  • When he used a refillable soup bowl (it never goes below half full) people ate 73% more soup than those given a regular bowl of soup. When he asked the people with the refillable bowl if they were full, they replied “How could I be. I only ate half a bowl of soup”.
  • When he took a batch of trail mix and labeled some as “low fat” and some as “regular” people ate 21% to 46% more calories of the “low fat” trail mix.
  • When he showed people an Italian sandwich and told them that it was from either “Jim’s Hearty Sandwich Shop” or from “Good Karma Healthy Foods”, people estimated the calories as 24% lower if they thought it came from Good Karma.
  • When he took students on a walk around a lake before dinner, they ate more calories at dinner if they were told that it was an exercise walk than if they were told that it was a sight-seeing walk – and most of the extra calories came from dessert.

And the fascinating thing is that it doesn’t matter how intelligent or well informed you are.

  • He did a study with 60 graduate students. Just before winter break he gave them a lecture on external eating cues in which he specifically told them that they would eat more from a big bowl of Chex Mix than from a small bowl. The students then spent 90 minutes in small group exercises designed to show them how to overcome external eating cues.
  • After winter break he invited those same students to a Super Bowl party in which he divided them into two rooms and gave them, you guessed it, either large or small bowls of Chex Mix. The ones given the large bowls ate 53% more!
  • He gave the same lecture to a meeting of The American Diabetes Association (Those are the experts) and then repeated the same experiment with them – and they still ate more from the large bowls.

So now you know that overeating is mindlessly dependent on external eating cues, AND that you can’t avoid being influenced by those external clues even if you are intelligent and motivated!

So what can you do?

Dr. Wansink recommends planning ahead.

  • Serve your food on small plates and don’t leave food lying around where you can see it or get to it easily.
  • If you bring home a box or bag of snack food (hopefully healthy snack food), divide it up into healthy portion sizes as soon as you bring it home.
  • Put the healthy food choices in the front of your refrigerator or cupboard where you will see them easily and hide the unhealthy foods in the back (or don’t bring them home to begin with).

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

SwissFitt Admin

Dr. Steve Chaney

Dr. Stephen Chaney received his B.S. degree in Chemistry from Duke University and his Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry from UCLA. He is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina. At the time of his retirement he held the title of Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina where he taught biochemistry and nutrition to first year medical and dental students for 40 years.

Read More About Dr. Chaney

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: